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Your ignition interlock knows more about you than you think

It's been almost 10 years since Minnesota instituted the ignition interlock program. Currently, about 10,000 drivers are enrolled. The Department of Public Safety claims the program has been widely successful in reducing the number of drunk drivers on the roads, thereby saving lives.

After your DUI arrest, you agreed to participate in the ignition interlock program so you could keep your license. It seemed like a fair exchange. While the system is not flawless and many factors can influence the accuracy of the results, recently, even more sinister details about the program have forced lawmakers to investigate the interlock devices and retract some of the privileges it had granted to the DPS.

How it really works

You purchased the system and had it installed in your vehicle at no small cost. It is no bigger than a calculator with a tube attached. When you breathe into the tube, it registers the presence of alcohol if you have been drinking. The results of your breath test determine the next action:

  • If there is no alcohol detected, the device will allow you to start your car and drive.
  • The device will prompt you to do "rolling tests" every 15 to 30 minutes while you drive.
  • If there is alcohol on your breath, the device prevents your car from starting.
  • If alcohol is present, the device notifies the ignition interlock vendor who notifies the DPS.

A failed breath test counts as a violation, which could add additional time to the length of your interlock program.

Overstepping the boundaries

Because legislators agreed that the program had merit, they wanted to expedite its initiation. Therefore, they granted the DPS a rulemaking exemption allowing them to make any necessary changes to facilitate the program's success. Using its new authority, the DPS made a substantial change.

In order to be able to report violations in real time, the DPS instructed the five vendors contracted to supply the interlock devices to include GPS tracking software. What this means is that while you drove with your ignition interlock system installed in your vehicle, the interlock vendor and DPS collected data about where you were.

While all parties involved claim they do not use or store the data, they also admit that they do nothing to classify it. In other words, the chronicles of your whereabouts are a matter of public record. If you have been the victim of a stalking or domestic assault, your abuser could identify your location by requesting the public data.

Someone on your side

By agreeing to this program, you may have unwittingly allowed the DPS to violate your Constitutional rights. For now, some lawmakers have introduced a bill to prohibit geo-tracking in interlock devices and to tighten the rulemaking authority of the DPS.

Meanwhile, as long as you are obligated to participate in the ignition interlock program, you have recourse through your attorney. You agreed to the interlock program because having your driver's license is important to your livelihood. Inaccurate results can bring serious consequences that could jeopardize your future. If you have an attorney with years of experience, you can be assured of obtaining dependable advice and skilled defense.

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